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Re: the docs, and newbies.

From: "Ross J(dot) Reedstrom" <reedstrm(at)rice(dot)edu>
To: Tom Lane <tgl(at)sss(dot)pgh(dot)pa(dot)us>
Cc: Bruce Momjian <pgman(at)candle(dot)pha(dot)pa(dot)us>, John McKown <joarmc(at)swbell(dot)net>, Postgresql Docs ML <pgsql-docs(at)postgresql(dot)org>
Subject: Re: the docs, and newbies.
Date: 2001-01-22 16:46:17
Message-ID: (view raw, whole thread or download thread mbox)
Lists: pgsql-docs
On Sun, Jan 21, 2001 at 11:04:42PM -0500, Tom Lane wrote:
> Bruce Momjian <pgman(at)candle(dot)pha(dot)pa(dot)us> writes:
> > Does anyone want to comment on this idea?
> Forget it.  How many people here are going to type out "administrative
> user" instead of "superuser" every time they need to mention the term
> in email?  How many people here can even spell it correctly without
> thinking twice?  It's not gonna happen.
> >> I like that name. It is more accurate and less "UNIXy". And more people
> >> would understand what a "administrative user" is that a superuser.
> I disagree with two out of those three claims, and the third ("less
> UNIXy") may be correct but it is not particularly important.  The
> Postgres superuser stands in exactly the same relationship to the
> database that the Unix superuser does to a Unix system.  Therefore,
> the term is perfectly accurate and will convey exactly the intended
> meaning to anyone who's familar with Unix system administration.
> Indeed, the only people who are likely to be confused are those who
> make the mistake of assuming that the Postgres superuser is the same
> as the Unix superuser ... and only those who have heard of a Unix
> superuser can possibly make that error in the first place.  Nobody
> has ever heard of an "administrative user" or is likely to draw all
> the correct implications from that term at first glance.

Hmm, isn't the confusion over system superuser and postgresql database
superuser excatly the reason this change was suggested? I seem to
recall this is a FAQ (even if it's not in the FAQ).  Those who make the
mistake are those who are more familiar with databases than operating
systems. They see 'superuser', and think 'oh, I know what that is' in
specific, not in general.  I remember being slightly confused  on this
very issue myself the first time I installed pgsql. No other package I can
think of calls it's administrative user the 'foo superuser': in my UNIX
experience, it's like the U.S. President: there's only one individual,
not a class. In fact, the Zope middleware package used to call it's all
powerful user 'superuser', but switched to 'administrator' for this very
reason. Yes, people where typing root passwords into webpages!

As to historical precedent: The account for the person who installs and
manages the database: that'd be the database administrator, DB admin,
or DBA. Surely you've heard of one? I find 'admin' or 'DBA' easy to type
(and in fact, is the term I use when discussing this person) If you use
superuser, there's always a moment of ambiguity, when I must decide from
context (or additional adjectives) if this is the postgresql or system
superuser (dare I say hash collision?)

> "Superuser" is short, easy to spell correctly, and has the right
> overtones for people familiar with Unix sysadmin duties.  If you
> want to advocate a different term, try to pick one that retains
> at least some of those properties.

'Admin' is shorter, has just as long a precedent (or longer) than
superuser, has more of the _right_ connotations in the database community,
and none of the overloading concerning system priviliges that 'superuser'

Open source code is like a natural resource, it's the result of providing
food and sunshine to programmers, and then staying out of their way.
[...] [It] is not going away because it has utility for both the developers 
and users independent of economic motivations.  Jim Flynn, Sunnyvale, Calif.

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